In May 2019, along the Appalachian Trail, James L. Jordan fatally stabbed Ronald S. Sanchez Jr., and wounded another hiker, Kirby Morrill, who survived by playing dead. They were in Southwest Virginia, when the attack took place. Jordan was charged with one count of murder and one count of assault with intent to murder. lawyers argued that he was disturbed, a lifelong victim of serious mental illness.

Last month a judge ruled Jordan was not guilty, by reason of insanity. He will be committed to a mental institution where he will remain until doctors and the court deem that he’s no longer a threat to society. Jordan “could not appreciate the nature and quality of his actions and therefore he met the legal standard for insanity,” said experts for both the prosecution and defense.

James Jordan. Photo: Washington County Sheriff’s Office

In the weeks before Jordan killed Sanchez, he’d been known to authorities in locations along the AT because of erratic behavior. He’d threatened some hikers with an axe, told others he would pour gasoline on their tents and set them on fire. When he later encountered Sanchez camping, the two got into an argument before Jordan stabbed him, then chased down Morrill, stabbing her too.


Sanchez’s death was the 10th murder on the AT in 45 years of record-keeping.

Four months after the stabbing, Morrill returned to the AT and summited Mt. Katahdin.

Photo: Josiah Gascho/Unsplash

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